Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the UN Women Afghanistan announced on Wednesday that gendered ceasefires are a prerequisite for peace talks and a negotiated settlement.
The organizations noted that women have throughout history proven to be pioneering ways to end conflict and have been participants of the peace process while advocating for the rights of women and girls. “Yet often, women’s expertise and priorities are excluded from formal ceasefire agreements and implementation mechanisms. In Afghanistan, women continue to risk their lives every day in the name of peace. 2020 marked the highest number of women killed since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began systematic documentation in 2009,” the statement added.
Hence, a publication “Gender responsive ceasefires and ceasefire agreements” has been launched which highlights how gender responsive ceasefire is urgently needed in the context of Afghanistan to secure the conditions for meaningful peace talks. The publication outlines a practical set of recommended entry points for securing gender related provisions in ceasefire text as well as outlining how ceasefire agreements can address the gender dynamics of conflict. The publication is part of a joint AIHRC and UN Women series called ‘Sustaining Peace Briefs’.
The publication was launched at an event, wherein Dr Abdullah Abdullah, Chairperson of High Council for National Reconciliation; Hasina Safi, Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs; Dr. Habiba Sarabi, Peace Negotiation Team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and Mette Knudsen, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, were present.
The event featured a collective call for a ceasefire from Afghan women across provinces and the international community in Kabul to put an end to all forms of violence. Some of the key messages emphasized during the event included the urgent need for a comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan that ends all forms of violence, how the ongoing insecurity is a major obstacle to securing lasting peace and how women are actively trying to find ways to make the lives of all Afghan’s safer. The event made clear that violence does not end on the battlefield and that a sustainable end of hostilities means ending all forms of violence, including violence against women.
Kabul: According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, 174 hectares of forest have been gutted so far following a fire in the forests of Nuristan in Nurgaram district. The fire, which is spreading, is the result of an armed conflict between two ethnic groups in Nurgaram district and has been going on for four days.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Agriculture, Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, instructed the relevant departments of the Ministry and the Department of Agriculture of Nuristan Province to take immediate action to contain the fires in the Nurgaram forests. Ahadi has also ordered officials from the Ministry of Agriculture to send the necessary equipment to Nuristan to contain the fire.
Abdul Wahab Nasimi, director of Nuristan Agriculture, said that as a result of an armed conflict between two tribes in Nurgaram district, the forests of Dara-e-Sham district caught fire. Nasimi added that the fire was spreading to the forests of the Korgel Valley.
The Director of Agriculture of Nuristan said that according to the order of the Minister of Agriculture, equipment and technical facilities have been sent to the area by the General Directorate of Natural Resources of the Ministry to control the fire and efforts are underway to control it. He reported that the intensity of the fire was high in some areas and lower in others.
Kabul: Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), said that the fall of the districts not only has military consequences, but also causes irreparable damage to the process of humanitarian aid, public facilities, women, children and schools.
Abdullah made the remarks on Wednesday at a meeting entitled “Ensuring ceasefire and Achieving Peace” in Kabul. The meeting was organized by Human Rights commission and the United Nations Women.
Abdullah had also said on Tuesday that the district handovers to the Taliban are not pre-planned. According to Sapidar, Abdullah also said at the meeting that there should be no additional concern for the country’s security and defense forces. “We must support the security and defense forces of the country in every way, and this is the responsibility of every citizen,” he stressed. “They are strongly defending Afghanistan.”
Abdullah added that in order to get out of the current situation, it is necessary to provide a clear vision to the people of Afghanistan, perseverance and national unity. Abdullah also referred to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and said that preparations had been made for the withdrawal of these troops. According to him, the people of Afghanistan had to be mentally prepared for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Abdullah also added that with the announcement of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, an emergency situation arose and the Taliban has used it to intensify the war. According to Abdullah, “women are the main victims of violence”. “The war is raging; but the Taliban cannot and must not be defeated by a military victory. The international community and the Afghan people want an immediate ceasefire,” he said.
Meanwhile, Elita Miller, the UN Special Representative for Women in Afghanistan, told the meeting that women were being targeted for silence. Shaharzad Akbar, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, also stressed on the importance of women’s significant participation in the ceasefire and the peace process, and said that women should play an active role in the entire peace process and use their experience and expertise.
However, Abdullah Abdullah has said that the issue of gender is a serious issue and that a women’s representative will be present during the negotiations.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday recorded 1,722 new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the past 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 94 deaths and now the death toll is 3,842, while the total number of positive cases stand at 96,531. In the past 24 hours, 391 people have been recovered from the infection.
The Ministry of Health has asked citizens to follow health guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, a new report by CARE revealed growing evidence that COVID-19 is increasing short-term humanitarian needs and negatively affecting longer-term outcomes for marginalized populations and people in vulnerable situations. Placing gender at the center of its humanitarian and development responses, CARE undertook the new research, including more than 1,000 surveys with women on the move and from host communities – in Afghanistan, Ecuador, and Turkey between April and May 2021 – to better understand how COVID-19 is impacting the health and protection of women and girls on the move.
The report showed that among those worst affected are the nearly 40 million forcibly displaced women and girls worldwide who already faced additional barriers to accessing critical basic services before COVID-19 due to the intersection of their gender and displacement status. Since the onset of the pandemic, women and girls on the move are facing further decreased access to healthcare — including sexual and reproductive health — and protection services, increased risks of gender-based violence, and deeper poverty and food insecurity.
The three countries represent different types of forced displacement across multiple regions: internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugee returnees in Afghanistan; more recent migrants and refugees due to the Venezuelan crisis in Ecuador; and longer-term Syrian refugees living under temporary international protection in Turkey
Kabul: In a surprise move, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday met US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha, Qatar’s capital and exchanged perspectives on the war-torn nation and the region during his second visit to the key Gulf nation in a week.
India, a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan, has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
“Met with @US4AfghanPeace Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha. Continued our exchange of perspectives on Afghanistan and the region,” Jaishankar had tweeted. The meeting with Khalilzad was not previously announced by the Indian External Affairs Ministry.
The US and the Taliban signed a landmark deal in Doha on February 29, 2020, after multiple rounds of negotiations to bring lasting peace in war-torn Afghanistan and allow US troops to return home from America’s longest war. India has been keenly following the evolving political situation after the US signed the peace deal with the Taliban.
In early March, Jaishankar and Khalilzad spoke over phone and discussed the developments pertaining to the Afghan peace talks. In the same month, Jaishankar attended the 9th Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, where he voiced “grave concerns” over violence and bloodshed in Afghanistan and said that there is need for a “double peace” in and around the war-torn country.
The negotiating parties should engage in good faith, with a serious commitment towards reaching a political solution, he told the conference which was also attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Jaishankar also said that India has been supportive of all the efforts being made to accelerate the dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, including intra-Afghan negotiations.
This also comes against the backdrop of behind the door talks that the Indian government is holding with the Taliban, who are also a part of the peace process.
Khalilzad too tweeted details about the meet and said that both the countries understand the importance of an independent, sovereign, and unified Afghanistan at peace with itself and the world. “India has played a very important role in Afghanistan’s economic and social development in the last two decades. It will continue to have a vital role as we work together, and alongside the rest of the international community, to help Afghans achieve peace, security and the economic well- being they yearn for and deserve,” Khalilzad tweeted.
Meanwhile on the withdrawal front, the Italian government launched an operation to bring to Italy some Afghans who collaborated with the Italian mission in Afghanistan, along with their families, to offer them international protection. On Monday, the first flight arrived with 82 Afghan civilians at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.
“Italy won’t forget them,” said Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini. Camp Arena, the Italian base in Herat, where Guerini travelled on June 8 to greet the troops and for the flag-lowering ceremony, is already partially empty. In recent weeks in Kabul and other cities in the country there have been demonstrations by Afghan collaborators who are asking to be transferred out of Afghanistan.
In recent years, these collaborators have been victims of targeted attacks by the Taliban. Many of them have been tortured and killed, and without the protection of NATO forces, the lives of those who collaborated with those considered “foreign invaders” would be highly at risk.
In other news, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan discussed intensification of bilateral cooperation in the trade and economic sphere, Trend reported, referring to the press service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan.
On June 15, the Special Representative of the President of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev held talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan Hanif Atmar. The parties discussed the prospects for direct inter-Afghan peace talks, the process of preparation for the International Conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Interconnectedness. Challenges and Opportunities”, as well as intensification of bilateral cooperation in the trade and economic sphere.
Atmar asked on behalf of the Afghan leadership to convey sincere gratitude to the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev for the emergency humanitarian assistance provided, which, according to him, saved thousands of lives of ordinary Afghans who faced the third wave of COVID-19 pandemic. The minister especially emphasized on the fact that the head of Uzbekistan was the first to respond to the request of Afghanistan.
Atmar also praised the efforts of the leadership of Uzbekistan for the peaceful settlement of the Afghan crisis, the implementation of various infrastructure projects in the energy, transport and communication fields in the country.
Kabul: Afghanistan’s Supporting Open Media-Nai, has said that Amrullah Saleh, the first vice-president, has fired four staff members of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Crimes for publishing and sharing information with the media.
A statement issued by Nai on Wednesday stated that according to Article 50 of the Constitution, access to information is the right of every citizen and that the government is obliged to provide information to citizens upon their request.
According to Article 36 of the Law on Access to Information, a person who has disclosed information in good faith, if proven, has legal, administrative and duty immunity in accordance with the provisions of the law and will be protected.
In view of these cases, Nai said that the Afghan government has no right to interrogate, punish, and forcibly dismiss Interior Ministry staff for sharing information; unless the information shared is illegal.
It added that the dismissal of Interior Ministry staff was against Afghan labor law and that the government should, in accordance with the constitution, deal with them and apologize to them.
Nai said that if the punishment of government employees for continuing to disclose legal information continues, the process of exposing corruption in government offices will be stopped and the free circulation of information will be severely damaged.
Kabul: The Technical Committee for Fire Prevention has given commercial centers and fuel stations 20 days to implement safety measures to prevent fires. The committee has warned them that those who do not take these measures seriously will be shut down after the deadline gets over.
Syed Nizam Pachai, director general of the Interior Ministry’s General Directorate of Natural Disasters and Firefighting, told a news conference in Kabul on Wednesday that the recent fires had raised concerns. According to him, the president has instructed that all guilds across the country should strictly follow the recommended measures of the fire safety compliance and the insurance company in order to preserve their assets and prevent damage to the country’s economy.
He said that fuel stations and commercial centers will be given 20 days to take safety measures in accordance with the recommendations stated, otherwise, the president will order the closure of commercial centers and fuel stations.
Mohammad Qaseem Haidari, Deputy Minister of Policy and Cohesion at the National Disaster Management Authority, also said at the meeting that in the past three years, the technical committee had monitored and submitted fire prevention plans for 3,998 commercial centers and 248 fuel stations. He added that most of these centers did not have minimal fire prevention measures.
He noted that most of the fuel stations in Kabul are of substandard quality and with a little negligence there is a possibility of fire. He added that a monitoring team has been formed by the committee, which, while reviewing the situation in the city, will objectively communicate the necessary recommendations to the owners of commercial centers and oil stations through a checklist.
Haidari said that the team received a written commitment from the owners of the guilds to take precautionary measures. He added that if the measures are not followed, the committee will impose more fines on violators based on legal documents, and these business centers and fuel stations will be closed under the direction of the president.
Kabul: Taliban insurgents launched their offensive at security checkpoints in Eshpashta area of Kahmard district of the Bamyan province at 2am on Wednesday, said Bamyan Governor Sayyed Anwar Rahmati.
Rahmati added that clashes were currently ongoing in the area and that five security personnel had been killed and many others had been wounded.
The Bamyan governor added that although no details were available on the number of Taliban fighters killed; but according to preliminary information, one of the commanders of this group was wounded.
Earlier, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed on Twitter that nine soldiers had been killed in Kahmard district and that two security checkpoints had been captured by the Taliban.
However, Bamyan Governor Rahmati said that the Taliban had not been able to seize any government facilities and that the group’s claim was false.
Meanwhile, Khanabad in Kunduz province was recaptured by security forces on Wednesday morning.
The district fell to the Taliban on Sunday, and was recaptured by security forces in the early hours of Monday morning, at the end of which the Taliban regained control of Khanabad. On Wednesday, at 1am, the city of Khanabad, the capital of Khanabad district, was recaptured by the security forces following airstrikes and ground attacks of the security forces.
Security sources told Hashte Subhe that Qari Hashem, known as Mawlavi Fayyaz, a well-known Taliban commander, was killed along with 20 others in the bombing. Sources added that Hashem was one of the most prominent Taliban commanders in the guerrilla warfare, and that his death was a heavy blow to the Taliban.
Another Taliban commander, Qari Halim, and three others were wounded in the operation. Local sources also added that five civilians were killed in the airstrikes in the village of Sayedabad in the district. The Taliban have confirmed the killing of Qari Hashem.
In other news, Fawzia Yaftali, a member of the Kunduz Provincial Council, has claimed that five civilians were killed and 18 others were injured in an airstrike in the Khanabad district of the province.
Yaftali told Etilat Roz that the attack took place in the Sardura area, three kilometers from the government-controlled Khanabad district bazaar.
According to her, women and children were among those killed and injured in the incident.
Meanwhile, Sayed Mohammad, a relative of the victims, said that the attack took place at around 5:00pm on Tuesday.
Mohammad also said that six civilians, including two children were killed and 18 others, including women and children, were injured in the attack.
He called on the government to investigate the incident and bring justice to the perpetrators. Kunduz Provincial Council member Yaftali also called the incident shocking and called for the perpetrators to be punished.
Meanwhile, local sources in Ghazni province said that on Wednesday, a chopper was hit by a rocket near the army brigade headquarters in Ghazni while it was landing.
Amanullah Kamrani, deputy head of the Ghazni provincial council, told Hashte Subh that a number of security officials had traveled from Kabul to Ghazni and that the plane carrying them landed at the army brigade headquarters in Ghazni, where the Taliban fired rockets at the chopper.
According to him, no one was injured in the incident.
Meanwhile, Aref Rahmani, a Ghazni MP, quoted sources in the army as saying that the chopper was targeted by a guided missile from a distance of several kilometers on Wednesday.
The Taliban, however, claimed to have shot down the chopper in the Yunt area of Ghazni’s Deh-e Yak district.
The Ministry of Defense has not yet commented on the matter.
The deputy head of the Ghazni provincial council said that the army brigade is located near Arezoo area and Deh-e Yak district and is under the control of the Taliban.
Kabul: Five healthcare workers carrying out a polio vaccination campaign in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province were killed on Tuesday, and four others were injured, during a series of attacks condemned by a senior UN official on the ground, as brutal and “senseless”.
The UN humanitarian coordination office OCHA, said that the deaths and injuries occurred during five separate attacks on healthcare workers – the latest in a recent spate which saw three health workers killed in March during the national polio vaccination effort in Nangahar.
Earlier this month, humanitarian workers with the Halo Trust demining group, came under attack in northern Afghanistan, where members of IS-K killed ten and wounded more than a dozen, in what the UN Security Council described as an “atrocious and cowardly targeted attack”.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Dr. Ramiz Alakbarov, said that he was “appalled by the brutality of these killings” on Tuesday, adding that “the senseless violence must stop”, urging Afghan authorities to bring those responsible to justice. He said the national campaign which only began on Monday, aimed at reaching nearly 10 million under-five children, had been suspended in the eastern region. “Polio immunization campaigns are a vital an effective way to reach millions of children…Depriving children from an assurance of a healthy life, is inhumane.”
“The UN strongly condemns all attacks on healthcare workers anywhere. The delivery of healthcare is impartial, and any attack against healthcare workers and those who work to defend them, is an attack on the children, whose very lives they are trying to protect”, he added.
The UN extended deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those who lost their lives, wishing the injured a full recovery.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted that he was “deeply saddened” by the attacks, adding that “access to essential healthcare service and immunization campaigns should be unimpeded so that communities can be protected.” According to news reports, Afghanistan reported 56 new cases of polio last year. But officials have reported that only one wild polio virus case has been detected in the country since October last year.
Kabul: Peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government resumed in Qatar on Tuesday, their first meeting since talks stalled in April. It followed a flurry of diplomacy that saw the UN’s Special Representative Deborah Lyons and US Special Envoy on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha to jumpstart the process this month.
“A meeting was held between the contact groups of the two negotiating teams and a comprehensive discussion was held on the organization and arrangement of the talks,” the Afghan government Peace Negotiation Team tweeted on Tuesday.
Taliban spokesperson Muhamad Naeem tweeted a similar statement. The Taliban have made huge gains across Afghanistan as the foreign troops prepare to withdraw. Peace talks between the government and the group have been stalled since April when the Taliban refused to participate in a summit in Turkey on Afghanistan’s future.
Meanwhile, the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Pakistan met with the European Union Special Envoy on Afghanistan to discuss latest developments in the Afghan peace process.
Seyed Mohammad Ali Hosseini on Tuesday hosted Tomas Niklasson and Androulla Kaminara Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan in Islamabad. The Iranian ambassador through a tweet expressed his satisfaction with the meeting and said constructive consultations on Afghan peace process were discussed.
During his visit to Pakistan, the EU Special Representative also met with the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and discussed ways to provide a conducive environment for advancing peace process in Afghanistan. In March this year, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq visited Iran to consult with officials of the Islamic Republic on Afghan peace process.
In November last year, special representatives of Iran and Pakistan on Afghanistan reviewed Afghan peace process in Islamabad on the sidelines of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visit to Pakistan.
In other news, the Saudi Cabinet thanked senior scholars from Pakistan and Afghanistan for signing the “Declaration of Peace in Afghanistan” during a summit held recently in Mecca with Saudi Arabia’s support. The declaration seeks to pave the way to resolve the long-standing Afghan crisis through negotiations among warring parties, and rejection of all acts of violence and extremism in all forms and manifestations.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has urged the Afghan leadership to sit together to resolve their problems. In a statement, he noted that the Afghan peace process has reached a critical phase. He said the parties will not gain anything from allegations. The Foreign Minister reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment for peace and stability in the region. He said Pakistan will not allow its land to be used against any other country.
In a statement on Wednesday, Qureshi said leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan have reached an understanding to not let their soil be used against any country. He added that Pakistan has been pursuing a clear policy that it will not allow anyone to use its land against Afghanistan or any other country and will play its role to secure peace in the region.
The foreign minister highlighted that 50 percent of allied forces have been withdrawn from Afghanistan and the process is continuing. Earlier, addressing the inaugural session of the Pak-Afghan Bilateral Dialogue, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the crisis in Afghanistan.
Kabul: Army forces launched an operation to retake Dawlatabad district of the Faryab province from Taliban insurgents on Tuesday night, said Faryab police spokesperson Abdul Karim Yurash.
“The operation was launched with the support of the air force,” he added. “Dozens of tanks came from Andkhoi district and took control of the center of Dawlatabad district, which is located on the highway,” he said.
According to Yurash, there are currently sporadic clashes taking place in the district. He said that due to the interruption of telecommunication networks, no statistics have been obtained so far on the casualties of the army and Taliban fighters. Dawlatabad district of Faryab province fell to Taliban militants on Monday night.
Meanwhile, two women and a child were killed and 11 others were injured when gunmen opened fire on family members in Herat province, the Interior Ministry said.
The incident took place at 10:00pm on Tuesday in the village of Nawbadam in Injil district, said Ahmad Zia Zia, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry. Zia also said that the family had gone to a garden and had been shot by unidentified gunmen when they were having dinner.
The injured were taken to Herat District Hospital for treatment. The motive for this incident is still unknown. The Interior Ministry has said that efforts are underway to arrest the perpetrators of the incident.